Men’s soccer lost their first game of the preseason in a shootout during an exhibition against the University of Tulsa. This was new Head Coach Cale Wassermann’s first game with The Cougars.
According to SIUE Athletics, the home-field exhibition drew in more than 2,000 fans.
The Cougars and Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane duked it out in front of the crowd for two halves and an eventual penalty shootout which they lost 6-5.
In the first half, the Golden Hurricane dominated by getting their first and only score within the first 17 minutes. The scorer, defender Alejandro Chavez, would go on to be considered one of the game’s leading players on Tulsa’s end, according to the official box score.
The Cougars made a comeback, but not until the second period when Danel Calvillo scored with one minute left. By the end, SIUE took 6 more shots than Tulsa, ending with 15 total and 6 on goals.
Wassermann told SIUE Athletics in an interview after the game that the eventual shootout was pre-planned on the Cougar’s part. Tulsa narrowly won the shootout at 6-5.
In an interview with The Alestle, Wassermann summarized the first half for the Cougars as offensive, but they began pushing Tulsa defensively into the beginning of the second half. Wassermann said it was a collection of small changes that altered the pace of the game.
Wassermann and the team are currently developing a lineup. However, defender Kashaun Smith said their main focus for this particular game was general improvement.
“You know, it’s still preseason, and that’s one thing we told the guys,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter if you started or not, it’s preseason. We are just going out there to work on some stuff, trying to get better for the upcoming season.”
No SIUE player saw more than an hour of field time. Wassermann expanded on this, explaining that it’s multi-faceted — both about physical health as well as preparation. It also takes a professional team to keep the players in shape.
“We take a lot of time and emphasis on the sports science side of things,” Wassermann said. “We work a lot with our Athletic Trainer James Mays and our Director of Sport Performance Mark Jamison. Those guys do a really good job keeping our guys healthy. When you’re putting that much of a workload on the body this early into preseason, we are still really building the fitness levels for our guys.”
He said this approach also helps him and the coaching staff see progress from more players.
Exposure to the field against players they’ve never experienced can produce higher challenges for players. It also shows what work players might have put in over the break.
“We wanted to give at least 15-30 minutes to some of the guys that don’t play as much to give them an opportunity to get a good evaluation. And to see how they kind of improved in the summer,” Wassermann said. “So really, you always try to play every game to win, but for us, we were thinking more long-term of how is this going to help our players get better and to prepare them for our opening weekend when we play Michigan and Michigan State.”
Wassermann is a former recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Michigan State, but going against them will be more about the team’s exposure to bigger teams than his connections to them.
“At the end of the day, it’s another game for us to focus on as a team and it’s not really about me,” Wassermann said. “It’s about the guys having the opportunity to play two teams that are in the Big Ten and nationally ranked. And to put ourselves in a position to hopefully get some results.”
Moving forward, Cougars fans can expect to see SIUE’s lineup change and adjust as they meet their needs. Fans can also expect a dynamic game each time as the team makes adjustments and substitutions. Wassermann says the team also enjoys the support from the local community.
“Obviously, compared to a big school like Michigan State where there’s football and basketball, it’s a little different,” Wassermann said. “But I think that can be a good thing, where we really can focus on soccer and school. Because there’s no football, we can get a good crowd. Like, we’ve never gotten 2,000 people at a preseason game at Michigan State. And I think that says a lot about the community on campus, and that they value the program.”
Sophomore Blackburn student, Gabby Lucas, of Granite City was one of the attendees at the game and said she had a good experience.
“Everyone was having a good time. The game was fun and so was the crowd,” Lucas said. “Everyone was high energy, especially when SIUE scored. Everyone went kind of crazy.”
This weekend, Men’s Soccer are headed for Lexington, Kentucky to go against the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The Cougars won’t be back at Korte Stadium until they play the University of Evansville on Sep. 6, but be sure to follow them on Twitter @SIUEMensSoccer to keep up with the team.